St. Lutgardis and the Three Mystical Favors

June 19, 2020

Around the year 1200, it pleased Our Lord to grant singular favors to a certain Belgian nun named Lutgardis.

She had already displayed various mystical gifts to her companions at the convent, and now she was also granted the ability to heal minor ailments by a mere touch. This wonderful news began to spread through the land, and before long people came from far and wide to be healed by Lutgardis.

But those looking for physical healing soon proved a spiritually distracting presence at the convent–not just for Lutgardis, but for all her fellow nuns as well.

As she was accustomed to be very frank in her prayers, perhaps rather shockingly so, she complained,  “Why did You go and give me such a grace, Lord? Now I hardly have any time to be alone with You! Take it away, please.” Then, with the kind of boldness that only the most intense lovers of God can seem to get away with, she asked for a new and better grace to replace it.

Our Lord asked her what she wanted in its stead.

As devout as she was, Lutgardis had not, it seems, been blessed with any facility for learning Latin. So although she had been praying the Divine Office with fervor, she was largely ignorant of what she was saying. So she asked the Lord for a fuller understanding of Latin.

Within a few days, she had it.

The psalms and antiphons of the Divine Office, the readings at Matins all suddenly came alive to her. With this new infused knowledge, she gained a deep understanding of these liturgical texts.

It was exactly what she asked for.

But not, it seems, what she really wanted. Because as amazing and ostensibly ordered toward increased piety as this second favor was, in the end it proved only an intellectual gift. Despite the increased understanding, Lutgardis found her devotion to God had not really increased, as she had hoped.

So after a short time, she asked the Lord to take His second mystical favor back. And again, He asked her what she wanted to replace it.

Saint Lutgarde chapel in Tibães, Portugal. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Wiser now from her first two experiences, this time she asked the Lord for something much simpler and more direct: His Heart. When He replied that He wanted her heart as well, her answer was as follows:

“Take it, dear Lord. But take it in such a way that the love of Your Heart may be so mingled and united with my own heart that I may possess my heart in Thee, and that it may always remain there secure in Your protection.”

Our Lord granted this bold request, and so St. Lutgardis of Aywières became one of the first saints on record to experience Mystical Union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She is regarded as one of the earliest progenitors of the devotion that would become widespread throughout the world four centuries later with St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

Today, as we celebrate this feast, let us remember that it is not in amazing miracles or in intellectual understanding that our faith ultimately rests. We need not fret that we lack showy mystical gifts or profound liturgical or Scriptural insights. Although these can certainly bring us closer to our Blessed Savior, they can also be hindrances if we allow them to be. As gifts of God they are good in themselves, but they are not essential.

What is essential, as St. Lutgardis discovered, is to love–to mystically unite our own little hearts and wills to the burning furnace of Charity, the House of God, and the Gate of Heaven: the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.